Chelsea’s living legend shows he is still the man for the big occasion

Chelsea fans headed home with a sense of anti-climax following the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, but at least they witnessed another great moment from the living legend that is Didier Drogba.

So far, this is a season from heaven for Blues supporters, even if it feels dangerously presumptuous to offer such a bold conclusion with the clocks having only just gone back.

A late Robin Van Persie goal and a red card for Branislav Ivanovic spoilt what had promised to be a perfect afternoon for the league leaders.

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager

“He was fantastic.”
Mourinho’s verdict on Drogba

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But as setbacks go, it hasn’t derailed their progress – and Drogba offered significant consolation.

The absence of a hamstrung Diego Costa was supposed to even up the odds against a Manchester United side still finding their way post-Alex Ferguson.

How could an ageing Drogba possibly compensate, even allowing for his extraordinary flair for the big occasion?

We should have known better.

The barnstorming pace of old may be gone, and maybe some of that awesome physical power. But the presence is still very much there.

Boss Jose Mourinho had little option but to turn to the veteran striker with Loic Remy also indisposed. And his all-time favourite did not let him down.

It’s never wise to pigeon-hole Drogba as a lesser light, even if the 36-year-old knows himself he no longer carries the mobility and menace that was summed up by the unforgettable night Chelsea became European champions in Munich two years ago.

Van Persie struck for United in the final seconds
Van Persie struck for United in the final seconds

There he was again, almost stealing all the headlines in a big match – his towering near-post header at a corner early in the second half ensuring there is no let-up in the Chelsea juggernaut.

The familiar sight of that broad smile racing towards the corner of away fans in celebration made it seem as if he had never been away, let alone slipped into the realm of mere mortal footballer.

He had come close to netting towards the end of the first half too, but if his overall contribution was modest, the one moment he did rise above the ordinary was typical of the man’s undimmed sense of theatrics.

The pity was that Chelsea did not quite see it out. Mourinho stuck rather than twisting the knife. The introduction of John Mikel Obi for Oscar signaled a shut-down as early as the 67th minute.

But Chelsea are still unbeaten at the top of the pile, with one less demanding obstacle in the way.

And there may yet be a few more telling contributions in the title from their remarkable Ivorian star.

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